Friday, 10 November 2017

Nigeria-based Gilbert Chagoury: Haliburton bribery, Clinton donor, corrupt 100%

Five Devastating Facts About Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Funder, Gilbert Chagoury - on Breitbart

Chasing the Ghosts of a Corrupt Regime: Gilbert Chagoury, Clinton donor and diplomat with a checkered past.

Published January 8, 2010 - By Robin Urevich (excerpts). See the full article here.

July 2004. Far northeastern corner of Nigeria. Gilbert Chagoury was a kingpin in the corruption that defined Abacha's regime... Chagoury made it possible for Abacha to steal billions of dollars and lined his own pockets in the process.

Chagoury was among the last of the all-powerful middlemen who served the heads of oil-rich African states  Africa Energy Intelligence.

In many African countries, a Western entrepreneur might hand over money to a fixer or middleman, who would then pass it on to a political leader in exchange for support for a business venture. In Nigeria, Vasset explains, Chagoury was just such a figure in the mid-1990s, when Abacha ruled the country and held the key to much of the country's oil wealth.

Chagoury is a friend of former President Bill Clinton who has used his money to establish respectability. He appeared near the top of the Clinton Foundation donor list in 2008 as a $1 million to $5 million contributor, according to foundation documents. (His name made the list again in 2009.)

Chagoury conducts his affairs largely out of public view. He rarely talks to reporters.

I learn that much of what Chagoury says about himself is so out of sync with the public record and what others have told me -- even those who are friendly toward him -- that it seems he's not just in the market for positive spin, but for all-out reinvention.

When I bring up his days in Nigeria, he tells me that he detests his reputation as Abacha's middleman. "I am not in that business," he says. Rather, he has worked hard since he was a teenager, building a conglomerate called The Chagoury Group, which employs 20,000 people in Nigeria in construction, real estate development, telecommunications, and other sectors.

"I am an industrialist," he says in lightly accented, near-perfect English. "I spend a lot of time with my family. I don't have time to do all that people say I do."

"I have never bribed anyone," he says, looking me straight in the eye. "I have never had to make a crooked deal." He is absolutely sure of himself, even though he has offered me a bribe of sorts just minutes earlier.

A $180 million bribery scheme -- the largest ever discovered as part of a U.S. Justice Department investigation -- was hatched the first year Abacha was in office.


Halliburton's Nigerian Bribes
The scheme began in the early 1990s, when Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), at the time a subsidiary of the Halliburton Corporation, led a joint venture that bid for a $6 billion contract to build a sprawling liquefied natural gas facility in the Niger Delta.

The group won the bid, but not before Abacha had agreed to accept a $40 million bribe that he would share with other Nigerian officials, according to Department of Justice court papers. It was the first installment of $180 million in bribes that KBR would pay, not only to officials of the Abacha regime, but to officials of the two heads of state who succeeded him.

A few months before I interviewed Chagoury, former KBR CEO Jack Stanley had pleaded guilty in a Texas courtroom to charges related to organizing the bribery scheme that went on for a decade in Nigeria, and to taking millions in kickbacks for himself. Since then, two more KBR contractors have been indicted, and Halliburton entered a guilty plea and paid the government a record fine of more than $500 million.

Chagoury denies any involvement in the bribery case, but his name surfaces in notes taken by one of the indictees, William [Wojciech] Chodan [Chaudan] who kept detailed records of so-called cultural meetings, where bribes were discussed..

One entry reads, "$250 ... to IPCO via Chagoury."

When I ask Chagoury about these records, he doesn't dispute that the note refers to a sum of $250 million, but he argues that it refers to a contract, which, he says, was legitimately awarded to one of his companies, IPCO Nigeria Limited, for construction related to the liquefied natural gas plant.


Chagoury has not been named [yet] by the Department of Justice or charged with any crime related to the KBR affair. (2010)


His work as an intermediary for Abacha went beyond business affairs. He was also deeply involved in diplomacy, even though he held no official government post.


The Clinton Connections
Chagoury, along with his wife and three of his children, were guests at a the Clinton's White House holiday dinner shortly after Chagoury gave nearly half a million dollars to a voter registration committee, Vote Now '96, according to a report in The Washington Post. (Chagoury would have been barred from donating directly to the Clinton campaign because he is not a U.S. citizen.) Since then, Chagoury and Clinton have traveled together and seen each other socially.

"Every one knows I'm friends with the Clintons," Chagoury says.


Nigeria's former chief prosecutor, Nuhu Ribadu, who unsuccessfully tried to indict Chagoury in 2004.


Immediately after Abacha's death, Ribadu, then a young police investigator, says he began looking into the dictator's financial affairs. "It wasn't uncommon for Nigerian leaders to put money elsewhere," Ribadu says. "But the magnitude was beyond anybody's comprehension."

The money -- estimated at more than $4 billion -- was stashed in Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, and the Isle of Jersey in the names of dozens of individuals and companies.

In 2000, Chagoury was convicted in Geneva, Switzerland, of laundering money and aiding a criminal organization in connection with the billions of dollars stolen from Nigeria during the Abacha years.

Chagoury agreed to a plea deal: Chagoury would pay a fine of a million Swiss francs and hand over $66 million to the Nigerian government. Swiss authorities promised to expunge the conviction after two years, which they have done.

In 1999, Chagoury won immunity from prosecution in a separate looted-assets case in Nigeria by agreeing to return money that he held in Swiss bank accounts. The precise amount that Chagoury returned is unclear.

Meanwhile, the hunt for Nigeria's stolen treasure continues. A panel appointed by Nigeria's current president, Umaru Yar'Adua, is currently investigating which Nigerian officials took bribes in the Halliburton case and has reportedly requested U.S. Department of Justice cooperation in the probe. However, some Nigeria watchers, including Ribadu, doubt[ed] the seriousness of the inquiry [under a Bill Clinton administration].

The Clinton Foundation did not respond to emailed questions and repeated phone calls about the nature of Bill and Hillary Clinton's relationship with Chagoury.

While the Nigerian government struggles to recoup the losses it suffered under Abacha, Chagoury has prospered and continued to win acceptance from influential people around the world.

Last year, he was knighted by the Catholic Church and inducted into the Order of St. Gregory the Great, an honor bestowed upon those who serve the church, including many who are big donors to the institution. Bob Hope, Ricardo Montalban, and Rupert Murdoch are among past recipients.


The Clinton Foundation did not respond to emailed questions and repeated phone calls about the nature of Bill and Hillary Clinton's relationship with Chagoury.

Former Democratic Party chairman Terry McAuliffe, who, according to The Washington Post, was a sponsor of Chagoury's invitation to the White House in 1996, also failed to return phone calls.

A spokesman for former Clinton political advisor James Carville, also a Chagoury acquaintance, said that Carville could not comment on the relationship.


Chagoury hasn't stopped earning a fortune.
Knowledgeable sources say that Chagoury controls South Atlantic Petroleum, a company that was awarded a choice oil exploration license before Abacha's death. Three years ago, the company sold a portion of its government-granted concession to the Chinese oil company, China National Offshore Oil Corporation, for $2.7 billion.

In our interview, Chagoury didn't deny that he profited from the deal, but he said rumors that former President Clinton helped make the deal happen were untrue.

Chagoury is unfazed by the crackdown by the U.S. Justice Department on foreign bribery, exemplified by the Halliburton case, and waves off the recent spate of prosecutions like an elder statesman: "You have lobbyists; we have agents," he says. 
"You are never going to stop corruption," because it's favoritism, and that's human nature, which laws won't change, he tells me.

It's no wonder he is so confident. He is now free to come and go in Nigeria, while his nemesis, corruption hunter Nuhu Ribadu, left the country last year, he says, after an attempt on his life.

_ _ _

Journalist Robin Urevich is a reporter in Monterey County, California. Her work has appeared on NPR, Marketplace, NPR affiliates KQED and KPCC, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Las Vegas Sun. She is a graduate of the University of California Berkeley School of Journalism.


Related articles:


The Victims of Corruption -- The human cost of bribery in the developing world
The World Bank Institute estimates bribery is a $1 trillion a year business. But it's not a victimless crime...

Transparency International
Global watchdog working to combat international corruption.


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